In the early years of Iowa State, most of the faculty lived on or very near to campus. This proximity fostered feelings of neighborliness, especially among the faculty wives, who, just like women in any rural community, relied on each other for practical necessities, as well as for friendship.
During the winter break of 1897, Olive Curtiss and Alice McKay had the idea to start a club to have some kind of social activity during the cold and quiet time on campus. They were quickly joined by the president’s wife, Josephine Beardshear, as well as Mmes. Bennett, Beyer, Bissell, Curtiss, Harriman, Knapp, Marston, Meeker, Osborn, Pammel and Weams.
The club was originally named the Priscilla Club, after Priscilla Mullin Alden, a Puritan who came over on the Mayflower. She was in the Longfellow poem, “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” noted for marrying Standish’s friend John.
In the first years of the club, the women would gather informally at a member’s home to sew, bringing along their children.
By 1910, they had over 100 members. They moved their meetings to Alumni Hall and created six different study divisions: Language, Music, History and Literature, Civics and Social Economics, Home Education and Bible Study.
Club members were dedicated to enriching themselves and the community. Their core principals were Friendship, Fellowship and Stewardship. Its members donated the gates at the Iowa State cemetery, rallied the community during WWI and WWII, ran a thrift shop for over 60 years, and furnished the children’s area in the Ames Public Library.
The club celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1997, and continues to build friendships and to promote community service today.